Choosing your housing

Last modified: 05 November 2015

When choosing your housing, get as much information as you can, as early as possible.  Find out what is available. Check the institution website thoroughly and read all the correspondence sent to you by your institution about housing.

If you are considering privately rented housing, check what is available on commercial websites, particularly any sites your institution has specifically recommended.

Many institutions work with other organisations to help students who are looking for privately rented housing. If you are unsure about anything or if you want to know more, contact your institution’s housing office.

Many institutions offer a guarantee of housing for the first year of study. A few extend this guarantee to the full period of your studies. However, you need to be clear whether you qualify for any guaranteed housing.  Some institutions only guarantee housing for students who are paying the full international student fee rate.

Most institutions set a deadline for applications and it is important that you apply by this date. If you think this will be difficult for you, contact them in advance to explain why your application will be late.

The property

Last modified: 03 September 2015

Here are some suggestions for issues to think about when choosing accommodation.

 

Location

Last modified: 03 September 2015

Many students prefer to live close to their place of study, but this may not always be the best choice.  You may need to balance cost, quality and convenience, especially in larger cities.  Issues to think about include the following.

Where is the housing located?

It may be on campus; it may be near your place of study; or it may be some distance away. If it is not on campus, check that the locality offers you what you need and what you want: for instance shops, friends living nearby, places for meeting friends and socialising, good transport links, parking provision (if needed), a safe environment.

What are the transport links and what are the costs?

This is particularly important if your housing is not on campus or if you can’t reasonably walk (or cycle) to your place of study or to other places that you need or want to get to frequently. In some towns living further out, away from college, shops etc, can save money, as housing may be cheaper. If you are thinking of living further out, try and check that possible extra travel costs do not outweigh your savings on rent.

Rent and other costs

Last modified: 03 September 2015

When considering accommodation, you'll need to consider all the associated costs, not just the rent. Here are some issues to think about.

Your contract

Last modified: 03 September 2015
Be aware that you will be signing a legally-binding contract when you finally commit to your accommodation, so be aware of the implications.

If I sign a joint contract will my liability be different?

If you have signed the same contract as your friends and you all agree to take the property at the same time, you will be jointly and severally liable with each of your housemates for any rent arrears and/or damage to the property. So, if one tenant moves out, the landlord/agent can pursue the remaining tenants (as well as the tenant who has left) for any rent due.

Does the length of the contract fit my period of study?

The standard academic year runs from September/October to May/June for undergraduates and September/October to September for postgraduates. The letting year for housing typically runs from August or September to the end of June. It is sometimes possible to negotiate an extension to include residence for the summer months – July, August and the first 10 days or so of September. Make sure that your housing requirements fit your study requirements. You may be on a course which operates to a non-standard calendar (for example a Semester 2 start); you may have a requirement for a postgraduate writing-up period at the end of your studies; or you may want to attend a graduation ceremony beyond the end of your course and your housing contract. Think about these issues and check with your institution or landlord if you have concerns.

Immigration checks

Last modified: 11 April 2016

‘Right to rent’ checks

As part of new laws introduced in 2014, landlords are required to check their tenants' immigration status before granting a tenancy agreement, to make sure that the tenant has a 'right to rent'.  You have a right to rent if:

  • You are an EEA/Swiss national; or
  • You have the right to be in the UK under EEA law (for example because you are the family member of an EEA/Swiss national); or
  • You have valid immigration permission to be in the UK; or
  • You do not have valid immigration permission to be in the UK but you have been granted 'permission to rent' by the UK government (this only applies in exceptional circumstances).

'Valid' immigration permission means that your leave has not expired.

This requirement is being introduced in phases: from 1 December 2014 it applied to properties in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.  It will apply to all other areas in England from 1 February 2016. Landlords in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland may ask for these documents but they are not legally required to do so yet.

To check whether your property is in an affected area use the postcode checking tool for landlords on the Home Office website.

It will only apply to tenancy agreements that are entered into on or after the relevant date.  If you already live in a property in one of the affected areas before this date then your landlord is not required to carry out these checks.  They also do not have to carry out these checks when you renew your tenancy agreement, if your living arrangement has not changed during this period.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has produced a number of helpful guides about the 'right to rent' checks, written specifically for tenants; as well as a flowchart to help tenants understand which documents they can use to show that they have a right to rent.  These documents are on the JCWI website (at the bottom of the page).

Exemptions from ‘right to rent’ checks

Additionally, you will not be subject to a right to rent check if any of the following points apply to you:

  • You live in an exempt property. This includes student halls of residence; accommodation owned and managed by a higher or further education institution, or a body established for charitable purposes only; and accommodation that you have been nominated to occupy by such an institution, or charitable body. Full details of exempt properties can be found in section 3.7 of the Home Office's guide for landlords.
  • You are under 18 when you enter into the tenancy agreement; you will remain exempt until the landlord's next set of checks are due, even if you turn 18 during this time.
  • You are not using the property as your main or only home in the UK.
  • The landlord is your immediate family, such as a parent.
  • You are a guest in the property, you do not pay rent to stay there and it is not your only or main home in the UK.
  • The property is holiday accommodation, such as a hotel, and you will be staying there for only a short period of time.

The evidence needed of your right to be in the UK

If you are subject to a right to rent check then your landlord, (or the property agent if you are not dealing directly with your landlord), will need to see original evidence of your right to be in the UK:

EEA / Swiss nationals
 Passport or national identity card
Family members of EEA / Swiss nationals
EEA family permit or residence card
People with immigration permission to be in the UK

Passport containing a valid visa, or a valid biometric residence permit (BRP). If these documents are with the Home Office as part of an ongoing immigration application (or you have a pending appeal or administrative review) then you should give your landlord your Home Office reference number so that they can verify this with the Home Office.

Note: the Home Office's Right to rent document checks: user guide says (on page 34) that it is acceptable for your visa to be in an expired passport, as long as the visa itself has not expired.  However, section 5.2 of the Home Office's Code of practice states that your visa must be in a current passport. If your visa is in an expired passport you can apply for a transfer of conditions in order to have your leave endorsed on a biometric residence permit (BRP).

If you have difficulty providing the above documents then your landlord might accept a combination of other documents as evidence of your right to rent, such as a current UK driving licence and a letter from your school, college or university. These alternative documents are listed on page 3 of the Home Office's Right to rent document checks: user guide. However, section 5.2 of the Home Office's Code of practice states that these alternative documents can only be used by British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals, or people who have an indefinite right to be in the UK.

Your landlord (or property agent), should take a copy of these documents and return the originals to you.  If you arrange your accommodation before you arrive in the UK then your landlord (or property agent) will check your right to rent before you move into the property.  A right to rent check cannot be carried out more than 28 days before you enter into a tenancy agreement with your landlord.

If you have limited immigration permission to be in the UK

If you have limited immigration permission to be in the UK then your landlord must check your immigration permission again after 12 months, or before your immigration permission expires, whichever is later.  If your right to rent expires, for example if you become an overstayer, then your landlord will report this to the Home Office. Your landlord is not required to evict you but the Home Office may take action against you.

If you sub-let your accommodation

If you sub-let your accommodation (for example during vacation periods) or you have a lodger, then you will be considered to be a landlord and will be required to carry out right to rent checks.  You should discuss this with your landlord (or property agent), beforehand to make sure that your tenancy agreement allows you to sub-let your accommodation and to agree who will take responsibility for conducting these checks.  This agreement should be in writing.

If you have any questions or concerns

If you have any questions or concerns about the right to rent checks then contact the student adviser at your institution, or if you do not have a student adviser, phone our advice line.


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